Brexit minister David Frost gets it wrong about the causes of January’s huge drops in trade with the EU
It has been a gloomy week on the sunlit uplands of sovereign Britain, where our first month of post-transition trading as a fully independent nation played out like a particularly tragic episode of Danny Dyer’s pachinko-styled BBC game show The Wall.
On a recent celebrity episode, former footballer John Barnes entered an isolation booth to give confident and spectacularly incorrect answers to a series of easy trivia questions, wiping out modest wins made earlier in the episode.
Then, when one correct answer and a lucky drop left he and partner Chris Kamara about to trouser an unlikely £25,000 for charity, big Barnesie announced that while in isolation he had departed from their pre-agreed strategy and signed a contract giving up Kamara’s wall winnings in favour of their early gains. Sixteen grand promptly flew out of the window, a state of affairs Kammy couldn’t even bring himself to describe as “unbelievable”.
For Barnes and Kamara, read Boris Johnson and David Frost. Bosh! The Brexit they negotiated turns out to have helped UK trade with non-EU countries rise by 1.7% in January, adding £0.2billion to our prize fund! But – what a diabolical liberty! – it’s revealed that UK goods exports to the European Union fell by 40.7% in the same period, dropping us £5.4 billion in the red.
Time for the question and answer round, which on The Wall features Dyer’s Cockney catchphrase “Wall, is it right or is it wrong?”. Asked whether Brexit might possibly be to blame for this disaster, Frosty blamed “stockpiling late last year… meant less need to move goods in January.” Is it right or is it wrong? You mug, he’s got that one wrong – fish and shellfish exports plummeted by 83% year-on-year, and it turns out it’s quite tricky to stockpile shellfish.
And then questioned on when things might start looking up, Frosty answered “overall freight volumes between the UK and the EU have been back to their normal levels for over a month now, ie since the start of February”. Is it right or is it wrong? You melt, you’ve got that one wrong too – according to lorry trade expert David Lowe, “A lot of trucks are going out of the UK empty (having brought in imports). Truck movement is not relevant to what the actual exports are. The government needs to stop denying the obvious and instead focus on how EU exports can recover.”
Alas, Frosty has signed the contract and there’s no turning back now. And even when things do finally back to some kind of normal, the Office Of Budget Responsibility says we are still looking at “a long-run loss of productivity of around 4% compared with remaining in the EU”.
It just reminds you that the wisest voice about Brexit was not Frost or Johnson, but the actor and TV game show host who called it all a “mad riddle” and suggested that David Cameron “should be held to account for it – twat”.
We have seen Britain’s future… and it’s Dyer.